As Canadians practice “social distancing” to curb the spread of COVID-19, it’s important to consider the effects it will have on your physical and mental well-being. Here are five tips to help you cope with this stressful period.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,1 the stress of an infectious disease outbreak can affect physiological and psychological health in several ways:
- Fear and worry about your health and the health of your loved ones
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs
To help you avoid stress and stay as healthy as possible during the coronavirus outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO)2 offers the following advice:
- Limit exposure to the news: While it’s important to stay informed, watching or listening to the near-constant stream of news reports about the outbreak can contribute to anxiety. Instead of tuning in 24/7, try checking the news only once or twice a day. Also, take care to only gather information from trusted sources to help you distinguish facts from rumours. WHO stresses, “Facts can help to minimize fears.”
- Keep a routine: If you’re self-isolating at home, the WHO recommends trying to keep your daily routines as best you can. While it may be tempting to stay up late knowing you don’t have to set your alarm for your usual daily commute, going to bed and waking up at the regular time each day can help support better sleep patterns. The international public health agency also recommends maintaining regular family routines as much as possible or creating new ones, especially if children must stay at home. The organization suggests providing “engaging age-appropriate activities for children, including activities for their learning.”
- Eat healthily: Our physical and mental health are closely linked, so it’s important during times of stress to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. As grocery stores are one of the key services that will remain open, there’s no need to stockpile huge quantities of food. Still, try to limit the number of times you have to head out to shop. Write out a meal plan and make a list of what you’ll need to get you through the next few weeks. Having a list will also help prevent any unplanned trips back to the store. Now may also be a great time to get creative and cook up some of those special healthy recipes you’ve been meaning to try.
- Keep moving: While many local gyms and health centers are closed, that’s no excuse for not exercising. The WHO recommends learning simple daily exercises to perform at home. Not only will exercise benefit your physical health, but it has also been shown to be effective in combating stress by promoting the release of “feel-good endorphins.”3 Yoga, in particular, can be beneficial by combining the benefits of both exercise and meditation with controlled breathing.
- Stay connected: Being physically isolated doesn’t have to mean cutting yourself off from social interaction. The WHO recommends staying connected via e-mail, social media, video conference and telephone. It can be particularly reassuring to chat on the phone with a loved one who is on their own. Plus, what better time to learn how to use video chat software and connect via your computer screen?
While news about the coronavirus can be stressful, you’re playing a vital role in the fight against the virus by limiting your exposure to others during the outbreak. By taking steps to maintain your own health, you’re also ensuring you can better support the health of your loved ones.
If you’ve been in contact with anyone with possible or confirmed coronavirus or are concerned that you’re coming down with symptoms, it’s important to follow the guidelines available on the Government of Canada website